Once again, the foremost void in the Mets' resume had come up. And it comes up again today following the no-hitter Matt Garza pitched for the Rays against the Tigers on Monday night in St. Petersburg, the fifth no-hitter in a season that's barely 60 percent complete. More to the point, Garza's no-hitter was the first in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise. A game in which zero was the most conspicuous figure eliminated a zero in the Rays' all-time stat sheet and replaced it with a one.
By doing so, Garza directed the spotlight on to the Mets and, to a lesser degree, on to the Padres, two franchises who go on game after game, season after season with a glaring double-negative omission in their histories -- no no-no. With their respective to-do lists created 48 and 41 years ago, the Mets and Padres still have at least one unchecked entry each.
And now, here are the Rays, 3 1/2 weeks beyond the midpoint of their 13th season, and they've checked off the no-hitter. "Done." Now they can move on and work on that pesky World Series thing.
The Mets and Padres ought to be ... well, not ashamed, but at least they should be scratching their heads. Where were they when no-hitter capability was being handed out?
But of course, we all know what happened in each case. The Padres, born in 1969, labored under the curse of former manager Preston Gomez, who removed Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter after Kirby had pitched eight hitless innings against the Mets on July 20, 1970. The Friars turned their frocks on a no-hitter.
The Mets, born seven years earlier, were guilty of a greater transgression, turning their backs on the patron saint of the no-no; they traded Nolan Ryan. "It's the Curse of Nolie," David Cone said in 1991 after he had flirted with a Mets no-hitter. "You can't trade that man and not expect some ramifications."
Breaking a mirror brings you seven years of misfortune. Evidently, dealing Ryan -- he was traded by the Mets in December 1971 -- results in at least 39 years in the no-hitter wilderness. Reflect on that, Mets.
The Mets' void is far more conspicuous than the Padres', and not merely because of the difference in games played. The Mets had played 7,743 games through Monday, 1,128 more than the Friars. (Incidentally, the Rays had gone 2,038 games before they checked their no-hitter box.)
But over the years, the Mets' rotations have had no-hitter stuff as much as any teams' starters have had -- Cone, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman, Bret Saberhagen, Sid Fernandez, Pedro Martinez and now Johan Santana. With the exception of the Astros with Ryan, J.R. Richard and Mike Scott, for starters, the Mets could have been identified as the franchise most likely to throw one. Instead, they are no-hitter-less, an adjective as cumbersome as it is remarkable.
It's better than we don't have [a no-hitter]. If one of us had thrown one, we'd be -- what? -- one of 27, 28 teams that did? Now we're one of the few that hasn't. It's a greater distinction. Even real knowledgeable fans may not know all the teams that haven't thrown one, but I guarantee you they know the New York Mets haven't. We stand out like the one guy without a tie at a formal. We may not look as good as the others. But everyone notices us."|
|-- Tom Seaver|
Moreover, Garza's no-no makes the Mets' omission more conspicuous. The Mets trained in St. Petersburg for 26 years before fleeing to Port St. Lucie, Fla. Perhaps they left their no-hitter plans in a file cabinet at Al Lang Stadium.
And there is this, with Garza, David Price, Edwin Jackson (note his recent accomplishments in this area), Scott Kazmir (one-time Mets property) and James Shields, the Rays have had a caliber of young starting pitchers comparable to and reminiscent of the Mets of the late '60s and mid '80s. The difference is that the Rays' guys have thrown a no-hitter now, two if Jackson's June 25th no-no for the D-backs and against the Rays is included.
Ah, but not all is lost in Queens. As Mr. Seaver likes to point out, the Mets have no no-hitter and, of course, no perfect game. But they are the one franchise with an "Imperfect Game." (Armando Galarraga's game of June 3 has been appropriately identified as the "28-batter Perfect Game.")
It was Seaver who, on July 9, 1969, allowed one base hit -- to Jimmy Qualls of the Cubs with one out in the ninth inning. His complete-game victory became known as the "Imperfect Game," a perfect description because it connotes a sense of near-flawlessness.
"It's better this way. Now, it's better than we don't have one," Seaver said a few years back. "If one of us had thrown one, we'd be -- what? -- one of 27, 28 teams that did? Now we're one of the few that hasn't. It's a greater distinction. Even real knowledgeable fans may not know all the teams that haven't thrown one, but I guarantee you they know the New York Mets haven't. We stand out like the one guy without a tie at a formal. We may not look as good as the others. But everyone notices us."
What Seaver accomplished warrants upper-case treatment and quotation marks. Don Larsen, Cone, David Wells, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter and Cy Young aren't afforded such treatment. And incidentally, the inductees on the stage at the Hall of Famer induction ceremonies Sunday were dressed in jackets and ties. Seaver, too. But he tied the knot and slipped on his tie shortly before he took the stage, and the tie was removed shortly after the last speech. Hmmm.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.